Here on the blog, I’ve shared many stories about the paternal personalities on the Baumer side of my family. These Germans were all around me all the time, steady, stoic, and dependable. It’s quite possible that my enjoyment of walking around the neighborhood comes from my Nana Baumer, who also had such a habit. She would make a circuit from house to house, stopping to visit each of her children.
Since moving back home and trying to establish new routines, I’ve continued with my own habit of “neighborhood walks.” It’s a little different here in my country setting, but one of my promenades takes me down the Bowdoinham Road.
One day, my mother and I drove past this sign and she said “I wonder who lives there?” You see, my mother’s maiden name is “Belaire” and she was curious. Perhaps this was a distant relative, separated by a long-ago spelling error or a few degrees of “e.”
Through the type of circumstances that only happen in small towns, my mother met the residents of Belair Lane. They were not related to her at all; they named their little lane after a classic car they had restored.
Although there are fewer French Canadian people in the area, there is still a Franco-American presence in this part of Maine. Next week, my mother and I are going to attend the Christmas “La Rencontre” at the Franco Center in Lewiston. “La Rencontre” means “the gathering” and once a month, a dedicated group of Francophones meet at the former St. Mary’s Church in the “Little Canada” section of Lewiston, share a meal, and then enjoy entertainment in the church-turned performance hall.
Parlez-vous Francais, s’il vous plait!
My mother had never been and we didn’t know what to expect when we went in November. As we drove up Canal Street, approaching the Cedar Street intersection, my mother tried to help me remember a few French expressions and I tried out a few I had whipped up in my spare time. If someone asked me what I did for work, I had planned to say “Je suis une femme d’affaires.” This is what I had found when I asked Bing for the French expression for “business woman.” When I said it to Helen, she started laughing and then I started laughing. I don’t know what was so funny about it; maybe it was because it didn’t sound so respectable in Franglais.
While we were laughing at the stop light, I looked at the car in front of us, occupied by two white-haired ladies with a rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror. I asked my mother if she thought “les dames” were going to “La Rencontre?”
I slowly weaved The Jeep through the packed parking lot and as we got out of the car, my mother said if anyone asked where I worked, I should tell them “chez nous.”
I practiced it by saying “Je suis une femme d’affaires chez nous,”
We laughed and laughed.
It will take more than monthly visits to “La Rencontre” to improve and perfect my French, but I’m having fun trying. Noël is a good time to dig up the maternal stories from the family filing cabinet, too.
A la prochaine!